Looking to bag a charity shop bargain? You'll be lucky.

Oxfam store%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Charity shops run by organisations such as Oxfam and Cancer Research UK used to be a great place to rummage around for a secondhand bargain.

But with many items now costing in excess of £100, charity shops have come under fire for abandoning their traditional customer base in a bid to attract label hunters with deep pockets.

Originally, the idea behind charity shops was to take stuff people don't want and sell it on at reasonable prices to those who cannot afford to shop elsewhere - allowing both the charity in question and low-income consumers to benefit.

However, so-called charity shop chic has made them increasingly expensive over recent years - pushing charity shop clothes and other items out of the reach of poorer people they have traditionally served.

Pensioners and students are among those shocked by the huge price tags now found in charity shops. June Houghton, 83, from Rhyl in north Wales, told the Guardian that she is boycotting the stores due to the high prices being charged.

Describing a necklace in an Oxfam shop in the Buckinghamshire town of Beaconsfield, she said: "That's £150! I don't care if it's real gold, you don't sell that in a charity shop for £150!

"This may be a very affluent area, but there are pensioners and young people here too. I'm against charity shops now. I don't shop in them any more."

According to the Daily Mail, goods recently available at Oxfam on London's Marylebone High Street include a £140 dusty pink Hugo Boss skirt suit and £100 gold Orciani belt with a large embellished buckle.

At Cancer Research UK in Hampstead, North London, meanwhile, a brown faux-fur jacket was going for £250. And at an Oxfam store in Cambridge a signed print by painter Sir William Russell Flint was on sale for £249.99.

Similar prices are being charged in many of the country's 10,000 charity shops, which enjoy generous tax breaks not available to other shopkeepers and have also been accused of fuelling the decline of the British high street by forcing existing retailers out.

However, Ian Matthews, Oxfam's head of retail, defended the organisation's 700-strong network of shops' pricing policy.

"The public kindly donates stock to Oxfam and we believe the best way to thank our donors is to get the best price we can, which in turn raises as much money as possible for Oxfam's work," he said.

"All our shop managers have the flexibility to set their own prices, using their judgment and some guidance, to decide what prices and products will best suit customers in their location."
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